Penelope Angelopoulos, who lives on 167th Street, pointed to several trees near her home that are leaning over. On a breezy Friday morning, some appeared to “bend with the wind.”
“It’s an accident waiting to happen,” she said. “If one of these trees happen to fall over, it’ll hit our homes.”
Angelopoulos was among several residents who brought her fears to the attention of State Senator Tony Avella, who has long criticized the Parks Department for what he deems a lack of maintenance and care of city trees.
In 2013, a pregnant woman and her unborn child were killed by a tree that fell over in Kissena Park. According to Avella, there was no wind or rain that day, the tree just fell over.
During Hurricane Sandy, another tree toppled over in the area, killing a man who was sleeping in his bedroom.
“In recent memory, two people have died in this immediate neighborhood because the city doesn’t maintain city trees,” Avella said.
Angelopoulos said she hasn’t gone into Kissena Park since the woman was killed five years ago.
“Every time I pass by or walk by, I hesitate,” she said. “My heart palpitates going into the park or walking down the street.”
She called on the Parks Department to at least top off trees so branches don’t fall and hurt people in the community.
Connie Karosos, a homeowner on 167th Street, said the oak tree in front of her home has red oak borer, a pest species, coming out of the tree and into her home. She caught one, put it into a glass jar and showed Avella the pest on Friday.
“We can’t get them to cut this tree down,” Karosos said, “before it kills me while I’m sitting in the living room watching TV.”
Gloria Suppiger, a homeowner on 167th Street for 50 years, said if the Parks Department had taken care of the trees earlier, they would not be a problem now. Although the oak tree in front of her home is not a problem, some of her neighbors have sycamore trees that have broken branches falling off.
“That’s dangerous,” she said. “It’s not good.”
According to Avella, who conducted a random survey in his district with 1,300 respondents, 66 percent of residents said they were scared for the safety of their family or their home because of the condition of the tree in front of their house.
“That’s an indictment against the city of New York for not doing a proper job,” he said. “It’s just one more location, one more situation after another where people are not getting satisfaction from the city.”
The state senator warned that when spring finally comes and the leaves on the trees grow, that’s when the situation will get really dangerous.
“Right now, the wind can go through the trees because there’s no leaves,” he said. “But when the tree is fully bloomed, you really have the danger of the tree coming over.”
In a statement, a Parks Department spokesperson said homeowners with time-sensitive issues may pursue maintenance of a street tree themselves. But a tree-work permit is required if anyone other than the city prunes a street tree.
“NYC Parks routinely prunes street trees to maintain public safety, address immediate conflicts with infrastructure or enhance tree health and longevity,” the spokesperson said. “Routine pruning of street trees occurs within a section of each community board annually, depending on available funding.”